Annabel wanted to be thin, not dead. Recently deceased, she is given one last chance to get a message across to her family. She must help someone. Her first thoughts when she sees her mission is that she is fat. She knows what she must do, she must help Julia to be thin like her.
Every time you say ‘no thank you’ to food, you say ‘yes please’ to skinny.
Annabel doesn’t begin by explicitly stating she died from anorexia but it’s quite obvious to the reader that’s what happened. She’s in denial that she was ever sick and really, that’s why the Boss has sent her to help Julia. Don’t expect to warm to her immediately, I was sympathetic but her thoughts are pretty mean to start with. She’s just thinking of herself and the message she wants to send.
Annabel pushes her own feelings about food onto Julia, she projects her disgust at her own body onto other people. Annabel’s will gives permission for Julia’s behaviour to not follow a normal path. Julia didn’t come across as someone concerned with her body image at the start, maybe she wouldn’t have become so negative about it without that voice in her head. But then, what are we but the voice in our head? Even if it’s not normally from beyond the grave.
At the beginning, it’s possible to read this book and feel it is fat shaming. It is told through the eyes of a sick girl, who believes that food is the enemy and fat is abhorrent. She can’t see straight and is not a reliable narrator. Her words made me feel uncomfortable, but at the story progresses, and Annabel is influenced by Julia in return, it is made clear that Annabel is in the wrong.
In the world, when someone looks at a person like Julia they think weak. They think lazy. They see the fat and they know exactly how she got that way.
It also shows both sides of an unhealthy relationship with food. Whilst Julia being overweight is not necessarily a problem, the fact that she comforts herself with binge eating is. That she’s put a lot of weight on in a short amount of time points to something else going on. It also highlights how often eating disorders are a mechanism for control when the sufferer feels they are lacking it elsewhere in their lives.
Nothing Tastes as Good does an excellent job of showing how people don’t see us as we see ourselves. When we see another person’s perception of Annabel, she is nothing like the narrator projects herself as. And we are constantly seeing a mix of Julia’s own perceptions and Annabel’s, as being her “spirit guide” Annabel can hear other’s thoughts.
We are responsible for our own bodies, but sometimes the darkness crawls in and it lies, it lies, it lies.
I’ve seen this compared to Asking For It quite a lot, I suspect due to both writers being Irish more than anything else. It shares some of that unease, however it is much more positive than Louise’s book. It didn’t leave me feeling hopeless.
Nothing Tastes as Good is published by Hot Key Books and will be available in paperback and ebook editions from 14th July 2016. Thanks go to the publisher for providing a copy for review via NetGalley.
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Disclosure: I received a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes only. Receipt of a book does not guarantee a review or endorsement. My reviews are my honest opinion and are not biased for the purpose of personal gain.
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